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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Committee Name
Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Siewert, Sen Rachel
McLucas, Sen Jan
Gallacher, Sen Alex
Smith, Sen Dean
Moore, Sen Claire
Peris, Sen Nova
Scullion, Sen Nigel
- Sub program
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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
(Senate-Friday, 22 November 2013)
CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Indigenous Business Australia
Indigenous Land Corporation
Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
Office of Township Leasing
Torres Strait Regional Authority
Mr de Mamiel
Mr See Kee
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Content WindowFinance and Public Administration Legislation Committee - 22/11/2013 - Estimates - CROSS-PORTFOLIO INDIGENOUS MATTERS - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
CHAIR: I welcome the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion, and officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Minister, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Senator Scullion: No, but I think Ms Carroll may.
CHAIR: Ms Carroll, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Ms Carroll : Yes, thank you. As this is the first time that Indigenous affairs is appearing before the finance and public administration committee, we thought it might be helpful to make a short opening statement. As the committee would be fully aware, following the 2013 federal election responsibility for most of Indigenous policy and programs was transferred to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Large mainstream programs which service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain with the line agencies. There is a policy program split that I understand has been handed out and is available, and we have copies here if you do not have it. We are happy later on to take some questions about that.
I thought it might be useful, though, to quickly mention Indigenous health and native title in the context of machinery-of-government changes. Responsibility for Indigenous primary health care has largely remained with the Department of Health. A number of programs and functions have been transferred to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and these include Indigenous drug and alcohol treatment services, combating petrol sniffing, the Link-Up program and the Indigenous Sport and Active Recreation Program.
Senator SIEWERT: That has gone to you?
Ms Carroll : That has come to us; that is right. Broader questions about Indigenous primary health care would be directed to the Department of Health, but I note that today they are scheduled to appear here around some of the health issues. Native title policy and responsibility for the Native Title Act 1993 has stayed with the Attorney-General's Department, whilst responsibility for some of the programs—like night patrols, interpreter services in the Northern Territory and other aspects of Indigenous law and justice—has transferred into Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Attorney-General has retained responsibility for native title, and therefore questions about that would need to be directed to the Attorney-General's Department. If there are any further questions, we can answer specific questions about what has moved into Prime Minister and Cabinet and what has stayed within the line agencies. There should be a document that looks something like that that you might have access to. That is probably a starting point for us to answer any questions.
CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Carroll. Before I go to formal questioning, does anyone have a question of clarification of Ms Carroll about where particular agencies lie within this?
Senator SIEWERT: I do have a few. That means that all the staff that are operating those programs have gone to you—is that correct?
Ms Carroll : They are in the process of coming to us, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I used anti-petrol-sniffing programs as an example in Health estimates the other day. You have responsibility for the policy on it, but the actual on-the-ground stuff is being done by the department—is that right?
Ms Carroll : The petrol sniffing has come to us. In some cases, we are still working with different departments about who is administering the funding agreement on the ground because—
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, that is what I was getting a bit confused about, because I thought we had resolved it in the Health estimates, but now I am a bit confused again.
Ms Carroll : Because it has happened in the middle of the financial year, we are still in the process of finalising the machinery-of-government changes and, with that finalising, what will happen about all of those funding agreements and who manages them. In the main, the staff that are managing the funding agreements have come over to Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Senator SIEWERT: But issues around renal health and dialysis stay with—
Ms Carroll : Department of Health.
Senator SIEWERT: The department. Okay.
CHAIR: Any other questions of clarification? Senator McLucas, hello.
Senator McLUCAS: Sorry, Senator Bernardi; I loomed above you and frightened you! I apologise.
CHAIR: You are not that scary, Senator McLucas!
Senator SIEWERT: Oh, my god—you didn't see her during the week!
Senator McLUCAS: I wonder if we could get a document that describes the actual number of staff who have moved from various places—staff exiting from other departments and going to Prime Minister and Cabinet—and their functions as well, what they do.
Ms Carroll : Yes. Ms Kelly might be able to give you some overarching numbers, but that breakdown we could certainly look at getting for you—
Senator McLUCAS: Because of our time constraints, I wonder if Ms Kelly would provide it to the committee as a document.
Ms Kelly : Certainly. The transfer of staff has not actually occurred as yet. It does not occur until 5 December. So, whilst we know the number is approximately 1,800, that sort of information will not be available in final form until 5 December.
Senator McLUCAS: If we could have it then, that would be great. Thank you.
CHAIR: Senator Gallacher, did you indicate you had a question?
Senator GALLACHER: Yes. In respect of the Communities for Children Indigenous Parenting Services, I am aware of considerable investments in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, and I would just like to get a sense of how that looks nationally, because, basically, my exposure is in that area, where I think there are three early childhood wellbeing centres either under construction or to be constructed. How is that looking nationally?
Ms Carroll : That specific question might come up when we talk about education more broadly, and we would have the right officers here to talk about the family and children's services.
Senator GALLACHER: Well, I just saw the Communities for Children Indigenous Parenting Services—
Ms Carroll : I can give you a broad answer, but the specifics of what it looks like in the APY and NPY lands we could come to a little bit later. In the broad, the main Communities for Children program has stayed with the Department of Social Services. What has come across to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is where there are Indigenous-specific services, particularly those ones tied up with, for example, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory or some of those. So there has been a more intricate split, and when we give the—
Senator GALLACHER: I will pause you there. So where would I ask these questions about how national the program is that I have seen in the Northern Territory?
Ms Carroll : The Department of Social Services.
Senator GALLACHER: The Department of Social Services. Okay.
CHAIR: Senator Smith.
Senator SMITH: Where would I ask questions about the ABA, the Aboriginals Benefit Account?
Ms Carroll : That would come up today. It is not specifically on the program, but we could perhaps talk about it when we talk about the agencies—it is not an agency but an account—if that would be useful.
Senator SMITH: Great. Thanks very much.
CHAIR: Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: There were a couple of other things I wanted to check. Issues around mental health—have they come to you or have they stayed with the department?
Ms Carroll : Most of the mental health has stayed with the Department of Social Services.
Senator SIEWERT: Including the committee that Pat Dudgeon chairs? Sorry, I never can remember the name of it.
Ms Carroll : I will have to check. We might need to take that on notice and find out during the day.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be great. Also find out whether they are continuing, because there are some committees and advisory processes that the government has got rid of and there are others that they have not got rid of. If you could find that out that would be appreciated.
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Is constitutional recognition sitting with the Attorney-General, who I know is taking a great interest in it, or is it officially with you?
Mr Eccles : The Attorney-General is taking lead within the government for constitutional recognition. However, at an official level and ministerial level this portfolio is working very closely with the A-G.
Senator SIEWERT: But it does officially sit there.
Mr Eccles : The lead is the Attorney-General, yes.
Senator SMITH: You might well be able to answer questions about where things are up to and on process.
Mr Eccles : Yes. We may need to take some on notice and confer on technical matters with the Attorney-General's Department. We will see how we go, if that is okay.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, have you received a charter letter?
Senator Scullion: I have.
Senator McLUCAS: To do this quickly, is it possible for you to share that letter with the committee?
Senator Scullion: I will have to check.
Senator McLUCAS: I am trying to get to the detailed separation of responsibilities between the Prime Minister, yourself, and parliamentary secretaries.
Senator Scullion: I understand that. In a little while I will be able to check the status of that—whether it is a protected document or not. The intent of your question is to find out about the spread of responsibilities—is that right?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes. That is right.
Senator Scullion: I will check on that and provided that on notice later in the day.
Senator McLUCAS: For a lot of departments, when there are a number of ministers or members of the executive in that department, it is very clear on the website. Others are not so clear. In this department, it is not so clear for us.
Senator Scullion: As I said I will take that on notice and provide it to you a little later on. It will not take too long.
Senator McLUCAS: For example, who is responsible for Indigenous health?
Senator Scullion: That is broken up into two areas. Indigenous health still remains with Indigenous health when you are referring to Aboriginal controlled community health organisations. The delivery of those processes remains with Health. Health policy remains with me.
Senator McLUCAS: You understand why I am asking these questions, now.
Senator Scullion: Yes, I do.
Senator McLUCAS: We want to know what member of the executive is the person who has carriage of that. Who is responsible for Indigenous housing?
Senator Scullion: I am responsible for Indigenous housing.
Senator McLUCAS: Closing the gap?
Senator Scullion: I am responsible for that.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you tell me what areas of responsibility the Prime Minister has?
Senator Scullion: Rather than asking me what I am responsible for it is probably easier for me to describe what I am not responsible for. There are a number of areas within the native title section that will continue to be maintained by the Attorney-General—native title, the Native Title Act. I am responsible for the prescribed body corporate and the native title representative bodies. As I have indicated, the health centres and health delivery remains with Minister Dutton and the Department of Health. I currently maintain policy over health. There are some specific programs in regard to education, and direct education, that remain with the Department of Education. That is the answer in a general sense but, for clarity, in terms of the roles and responsibilities, we are happy to take that on notice. At some stage today I will be able to provide you with a document that ensures that the exact areas are completely covered.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. I am particularly interested in the health area. We asked this question of the Secretary of the Department of Health on Wednesday. We are very interested to know what the split is.
Senator MOORE: Will all that information be somewhere clearly available on the public record, on the website or something like that? It is not at the moment. Some of the departments have a process of putting up the ministers and their photographs, which is fine, but underneath that they have exactly what they are responsible for. Is it in part of the departmental plan to do something like that in the public space?
Ms Carroll : We are in the process of updating the Prime Minister and Cabinet website and, as Ms Kelly said, I guess we are in the middle of finalising machinery of government. I think the best place to start is the transfer of programs, but we would anticipate over the coming months that we would, in addition to the transfer of programs, be able to have a clear list of what programs and policy are within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and who is the responsible minister or parliamentary secretary.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that the joint parliamentary committee considering constitutional recognition will be recommenced. Is that correct?
Mr Eccles : Yes, the government's commitment to a bipartisan process is clear.
Senator SIEWERT: When is it likely that that committee will be recommenced?
Mr Eccles : It is fair to say there are discussions going on with the ministerial team that are taking responsibility for constitutional recognition. The Attorney is taking the lead on convening the new committee. I would need to refer to the department to get an update but I might be able to do that during the day.
Senator SIEWERT: I would appreciate it if you could, and if you could tell me whether it is going to happen before we rise at the end of the year.
Mr Eccles : Sure.
Senator SMITH: Has any independent or external legal advice been sought on any of the five recommendations of the expert panel?
Mr Eccles : Not that I am aware of but I will again check with the Department of the Attorney-General.
Senator McLUCAS: In other estimates we have asked questions about discretionary grants that may be associated with the department. Given that we have movement of programs and personnel from other areas, have those discretionary grants moved to Prime Minister and Cabinet already?
Ms Carroll : Yes, they have.
Senator McLUCAS: What are the running discretionary grants being managed by the portfolio?
Ms Carroll : I am not sure that I have with me the list of programs that have discretionary grants, but, as I am sure you have been hearing throughout the week, there are processes around the discretionary grants that involve going through a process both with the Minister for Finance and the new Minister for Indigenous Affairs. I think there are about 770 proposals. They might not necessarily be the whole program; they might be specific grants. As I am sure you are aware, within a program some of it might be ongoing funding and some of it might be new funding. There are about 770 that are in the process of going through both the Minister for Finance and our minister for final approval.
Senator McLUCAS: Can we have a list of those.
Ms Carroll : I will have to take that on notice and look at how we might do it. What we have done through the Senate order are the ones that have already been agreed and signed, so what has been tabled through the Senate order are the grants that are already signed. Then there is the decision making process for the others, and that is obviously part of the government deliberations.
Senator McLUCAS: We had the discussion yesterday in DSS about some departments treating the Senate order in different ways.
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: So you are very clear that those in the Senate order No. 14 tabled document are grants where contracts have been signed and moneys have been transferred?
Ms Carroll : They are where contracts have been signed, where the funding has been approved.
Senator McLUCAS: That is where I am trying to get to. So those on that list are where the contracts have been signed and moneys have been transferred—that is what I am trying to ascertain.
Ms Carroll : They were either already signed or have been through all the processes and approved through the new processes. So they are obviously going out to organisations but they have not necessarily all been signed.
Senator McLUCAS: So they are all approved?
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: The Senate order asked for grants that have been approved—that is the language of the order.
Ms Carroll : Yes. They have all been approved. Some of them were approved prior to the change of government. Some of them are where the new lot of approvals have already gone through. So they have been approved, but it might be that the funding agreement is yet to be signed.
Senator McLUCAS: The Senate order identifies a portion of 770 discretionary grants. Could we have on notice those grants that are not identified in your tabled document to the Senate? That would be terrific.
Ms Carroll : We will take on notice what we can give around that.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you.
CHAIR: There being no other questions on this agenda item—
Senator MOORE: Chair, I have some questions about the graduate program which would fall within this item. Ms Carroll, do I direct the questions to you?
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator MOORE: I just want to check on, again, the movement between the different departments. As to graduate programs within this particular part of Indigenous services, is there an allocation in this year's intake?
Ms Kelly : In negotiating the machinery-of-government change, there was an assessment done of the proportion of the grad program operated by the former FaHCSIA, now DSS, that related to the Indigenous affairs part of the department, and we have taken those grads into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. So I believe we have 45 grads, all up.
Senator MOORE: When you say 'all up', is this in your particular area?
Ms Kelly : That includes the pre-September PM&C grads, of which there are approximately 22. So now we have a grad program that has more than doubled in size.
Senator MOORE: And all up you have how many again?
Ms Kelly : Forty-five.
Senator McLUCAS: Is that across the whole of PM&C?
Ms Kelly : Yes, that is correct.
Senator McLUCAS: Can we disaggregate that figure to the number of people who are graduates who have transferred?
Ms Kelly : Twenty-two is the figure that relates to the pre-September PM&C grad offers, and 45 is the total figure.
Senator MOORE: Is that 23, then, Ms Kelly? I am not in Treasury but I think I can do that!
Ms Kelly : My only concern is that we may have a grad as part of one of our other MoG changes, with deregulation and Office for Women. So I just want to confirm that. It is certainly in that vicinity. It is only a matter of one or two.
Senator MOORE: How does that compare, do you believe? You said it had gone up. Didn't you say in your statement that you thought there was an increase in your grad program?
Ms Kelly : The pre-September PM&C program was 22 grads. The post-September PM&C program will be 45 grads.
Senator MOORE: I am trying to find out about the allocation to graduates through this program. I know the way the graduate scheme works and that people move through and all that kind of stuff. Will the same access to graduate experience be done in this part of the organisation as it was in the previous department?
Ms Kelly : We are actually considering those arrangements now as part of finalising the changes to the new PM&C. We have a people and leadership committee that is considering that matter at the moment.
Senator MOORE: We might come back to you at the next estimates. Have there been any offers made that have not been able to be fulfilled, the same as happened in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?
Ms Kelly : Not as a result of the machinery-of-government changes.
Senator MOORE: Any others?
Ms Kelly : Not that I am aware of.
Senator McLUCAS: Can I ask a question about Indigenous cadetships? Does that go here?
Ms Kelly : Yes, Senator.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you tell me what the status of the Indigenous cadetship program is?
Ms Kelly : I might ask Ms Crosby to deal with that.
Ms Crosby : In terms of the program itself, I assume you are talking about the Pathways program that is run by the Australian Public Service Commission. In terms of the number of cadets that we will be taking, we believe—and obviously we are still in negotiation on the staff transferring across from the eight different agencies—that we will be picking up about 15 entry level Indigenous staff. Some of those are through the Pathways program; others are through a program that is run by the former DEEWR.
Senator McLUCAS: I do not think I am talking about Indigenous cadets in Prime Minister and Cabinet but the broader Indigenous cadetship program.
Ms Crosby : That would be a question for the Australian Public Service Commission.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, have you been engaged with the Indigenous cadetship program?
Senator Scullion: Not as yet.
Senator McLUCAS: Not at all.
Senator Scullion: Well, not as yet,
Senator McLUCAS: I understand there was a review into the program.
Ms Carroll : If it is a Public Service Commission program, you would need to ask the Public Service Commission that question.
Senator McLUCAS: I have been contacted by a parent of a child who was due to start a cadetship on 18 November, with CSIRO. According to the parent of that young person, he was told that that cadetship was frozen. I am advised that your office intervened on this particular cadetship, Minister.
Senator Scullion: This is a question that should have been put to the Public Service Commission, but if you can provide the details today I will make sure we get some information back to you either today or on notice, Senator. The nature of these questions should not wait until estimates. It is obviously very important that the parent get some answers around this issue and, by all means, please direct them to my office.
Senator McLUCAS: I am asking you here.
Senator Scullion: And I have answered that I will take it on notice and get an answer to you today.
Ms Carroll : Excuse me, Senator, I have just been informed that we think the case you are talking about—there are different programs with similar names—is part of the Indigenous Employment Program. It would come up this afternoon when we talk about employment. It is not the general APSC cadetship; it is part of a program.
Senator McLUCAS: What is the name of that program?
Ms Carroll : The Indigenous Employment Program.
Senator McLUCAS: All right. We will talk about that later. Thank you.
CHAIR: We will now move to agenda item No. 2, which is Closing the Gap: COAG Reform and Stronger Futures.
Senator McLUCAS: Just before we do, Chair, I have a couple more questions about congress.
CHAIR: You have one minute, Senator McLucas, before we move on.
Senator McLUCAS: Is the government committed to the future sustainability of congress as the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
Ms Carroll : Clearly, we have been meeting with congress. I met with the co-chairs of congress just in the last week or so. We have been working with them around what their charter is and what their clear priorities are. We are going through the process of working with them. Obviously, any particular funding issues in relation to congress are part of the broader whole-of-government process.
Senator McLUCAS: I understand but what I am trying to get to is perhaps more a question for the minister. Is the government committed to the future sustainability and engagement with congress as a representative body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
Senator Scullion: Perhaps I can answer that in two ways. The sustainability of that is obviously a matter of Congress. I think it is a matter for their membership and how well the wider Aboriginal and Islander people respect them as legitimate spokespeople for them. Currently they have membership of about one per cent of the Australian population. Around 10 per cent of them bother to vote and they are 800 votes. I know that is a matter they are working on. So in terms of sustainability, that is a matter of the congress that they tell me they are working hard in that area. In terms of the relationship with government, I rely on a whole range of advice and among those is congress. We look forward to enjoying a relationship and that has to be based on the independence of congress. I have already met with the new coach here and with one of the existing coaches. I do not see that that relationship will change. They are going to be an integral part of the environment of the relationship between Aboriginal people and government. There are a number of other elected organisations like the land councils across New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Australia, that are also elected bodies and they will also be consulted and will want to have their views put to government. We need to be taking them all into consideration.
CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. We will now move to agenda item No. 2—Closing the gap and stronger futures.
CHAIR: Mr Gleeson, do you wish to make an opening statement?
Mr Gleeson : With your indulgence, Mr Chairman, I would like to make a brief opening statement, given that there is a new committee and a new set of arrangements. The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Service Delivery comes to an end on 30 June 2014. I know the minister is driving work on success arrangements to build on the lessons learnt from the remote service delivery. My office has been delivering on this legislation for the last four years to monitor, assess, advise, drive and report on service delivery to the 29 remote service delivery communities. The work of my office results in governments, communities and service providers working together to influence positive change in remote service delivery communities and directly influences the way governments work together. Combining our firsthand community experiences through 146 visits to remove service delivery communities, with the information we gather from our vast network of stakeholders, this has given us a truly informed and unique view of Indigenous affairs from a remote perspective. I encourage that this be maximised in the consideration of future options for service delivery to remote Indigenous Australians.
My biannual reports capture much of this intelligence, experience and lessons learnt and I am pleased to say that the minister released my most recent eighth report yesterday. In that report I drew particular attention to prioritising efforts, given we are in the final year of the national partnership agreement, and to fully consider the sustainability of these efforts. The report highlights three areas requiring further attention. I particularly focus on local government's capacity, reforming funding arrangements and simplified and meaningful monitoring and evaluation. Finally, the report also clearly highlights five priority areas that will yield the most significant results before the end of the NPA.
Senator SIEWERT: As you say in your report, you are not making new recommendations; you are highlighting ones and it is good to see the report against some of those recommendations. One of the fundamental things— to tell you the truth, it is not a new thing to be saying we need local decision making. There is a lot of talk about that. How do you do it?
Mr Gleeson : First of all I would like to say that while there is clear evidence and examples of local decision making in place, I am not sure from my experience that that has been extended to its fullest potential. I have noticed that the government has already indicated support to Empowered Communities—at least, in terms of design and looking into that particular model. I think this is an example of how we can look at trying to develop a holistic model whereby a community has greater control over design, over delivery and over their funding arrangements—so, they are prioritising things according to their needs.
The remote service delivery arrangements do go some way in that direction, but I think there is further scope for that to be enhanced. I am actually pushing to see this particular model being pursued in a much more consistent way to a broader set of communities. For example, the issue of pooled funding—that, again, is provided directly to a community to facilitate their better choices in how they have services delivered.
Senator SIEWERT: So you give people a suite of programs and they choose which programs?
Mr Gleeson : Not choosing the programs—obviously, government looks at the policy—but they would have a choice in who the service providers are in different areas of those programs.
Senator SIEWERT: So you are just saying that they get a choice of who they get to deliver their services, rather than the services and the approach that they particularly want to take? I would argue that just choosing who your service provider is is not giving you power over decision making.
Mr Gleeson : No. Essentially, what I am saying here is that there are a number of cases where there are functions which are mandated—for example, community safety which, obviously, will be provided by government. But there may be others which are provided at the local level which could be chosen by the particular community. A quick example is that there is a range of services provided through local government organisations. We have infrastructure development where some communities have their own batching plant. They can actually do the contract work themselves.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I understand that point. I am thinking of the bigger picture in some other areas of decision making. So, the community decides what level and what form: more control over education, more control over local schools and how they operate; and alcohol controls, with a minimum but much better—allowing communities to make those decisions over their health services. Do you see that you can do that level of decision making?
Mr Gleeson : I think—
Ms Carroll : Perhaps if I could just interrupted there? Just to build on what Mr Gleeson said around the Empowered Communities: that is part of what the Empowered Communities design is about, actually to see how far you can go, what is actually possible and thinking about how much it can go into schools, how much it can go into housing and how much can it go into all the different components, rather than just very small pockets of items that communities might have control over. I just wanted to reinforce that point from Mr Gleeson.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I know we are going to run out of time and as much as I would like to explore this further, I am sure we will into the future. I do have some specific questions around Closing the Gap. Can we go very quickly to justice targets? As you know there is very strong support for including justice targets in the strategy. Where are we in developing inclusion of those justice targets?
Ms Edwards : As you know, Senator, we have talked on various occasions about the work that has been done, particularly through the ministerial council of attorneys-general. As you say, there is a lot of public debate about these issues. I think it is clear that the government has put a high priority on safe communities, which obviously have an impact on justice—given that contact with the justice system is often associated with an element of dysfunction or violence in the community. In that way it is a priority being pursued. There is no current process to develop a justice target, however.
Senator SIEWERT: Has that been discussed under the approach the new government is taking?
Ms Edwards : It is early days and the government is still developing responses to those issues.
Ms Carroll : We are still in the process of providing advice and talking to the new government about those issues.
Senator SIEWERT: As Mr Gleeson just articulated, the remote service delivery commitment finishes next year. What process has been put in place to continue it? What is the new process?
Ms Carroll : The normal budget process for programs that are finishing applies. The national partnership finishes, as you know, at the end of this financial year. So that would be part of the government's normal budget process, for decision by the new government.
Senator SIEWERT: I presume it is an issue you are working on now?
Ms Carroll : Definitely.
Senator SIEWERT: What consultation process are you undertaking—or review process?
Ms Carroll : At the moment, a lot of the work we are doing is internal to government, but there are also some—
Ms Edwards : There is an RSD evaluation underway.
Senator SMITH: I want to move to the issue of the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development, which I understand will expire in June of next year. That is the end of a six-year program.
Ms Edwards : Detailed questions on this should be directed to the Department of Education, but I do have some limited material.
Senator SMITH: My questions are at a relatively high level. Anything you can provide me with will be appreciated. I can follow through with the Department of Education later. If I understand it correctly, the national partnership agreement committed to 38 children and family centres to provide a mix of child care, family support services et cetera across remote areas. I think $547 million was allocated to that program. Is that understanding correct?
Ms Hosking : PM&C has taken responsibility for the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Early Childhood Development in relation to element 1, covering the children and family centres. Element 2 and element 3, which relate to maternal and child health and reproductive health, have stayed with the Department of Health. Under the national partnership, the element that relates to the children and family centres provides $292.62 million to state and territory governments to establish 38 children and family centres across Australia by June 2014.
Senator SMITH: How many have been established to date?
Ms Hosking : We currently have 23 of the 38 centres constructed. A further eight centres are expected to be completed by the end of 2013, with the remaining centres to be completed by 30 June 2014. A number of the centres that are still under construction are providing interim services from different premises.
Senator SMITH: Are there any planned centres that will not be built by June 2014?
Ms Hosking : The advice we have from all the states and territories is that they will all be constructed by 30 June.
Senator SMITH: When I have had a cursory look at the sites, it looks as though 15 of the 38—so just under half—are being built in urban areas. Can you provide an explanation or justification for that?
Ms Hosking : This national partnership was never intended to focus only on remote services. It was a partnership that was intended to support Indigenous children and their families in a range of settings. At the start of the national partnership, there were negotiations with each of the states and territories about the appropriate location. As I understand it, there was a process by which the current locations were determined—and they do range across urban, regional and remote settings. The majority are in remote.
Senator SMITH: Just on that point: Ms Hosking, could you outline for me the decision making as it related to the Commonwealth engagement with states and territories?
Ms Hosking : This is going back to the early days of the national partnership, but as I understand it there were negotiations between the Commonwealth, which would have been the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, and each relevant state. There was a steering committee established under the Working Group on Indigenous Reform, which looked at this issue and obviously there were bilateral negotiations with each of the states in terms of identifying appropriate locations that would best support Indigenous people.
Senator SMITH: So am I correct in saying that the Commonwealth did its own research, its own due diligence and developed its own view about where the best locations would be and the states and territories developed their own understanding and then they came together and negotiated it?
Ms Hosking : I do not think it was two such separate processes as you are describing. I think it was more that in combination. Obviously this going back beyond the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet but my understanding is that there would have been a more shared process that relied to a fairly significant degree on the advice coming from the state and territory governments about where the need was in their own jurisdictions.
Senator SMITH: So who made the final decision? How did the final decision-making process work? Who had the final sign off on the sites?
Ms Hosking : I think we will have to take that one on notice to go back to the detail. My understanding is there would have been an agreement between the relevant ministers, but I think we need to confirm that given the passage of time and the machinery-of-government changes.
Ms Carroll : What normally happens in national partnership agreements is that a final proposal would be put from the states for the Commonwealth minister at the time for agreement, so effectively because it is a Commonwealth-state agreement there is agreement between the state government and the Commonwealth government at the time. Broadly, that would be the Commonwealth minister at the time with the relevant state or territory minister at the time.
Senator SMITH: So the state sends to the Commonwealth its preferred locations, the Commonwealth looks at that and says, 'Yes, we agree,' or, 'No, we do not agree, and this is our final list for you to sign'; is that right?
Ms Carroll : I think as Ms Hosking said, there would be a lot of negotiation going on both at the officials level before it got to ministers and then the final process would be that a final set of locations would be provided for agreement.
Senator SMITH: I appreciate that. I would be interested in knowing—and you can take this on notice—how the final list was different from the original list that was provided to the Commonwealth by each state and territory.
Ms Carroll : We will see if that is possible to get. We will see what is possible.
Senator SMITH: And in addition to that where the final decision was actually made—was it a ministerial decision, was it a department decision et cetera. This is a six-year program with 38 planned to be built and we still have eight that have not yet been completed. What is the reason for the delay? We are talking about family centres, child-care services et cetera. Why the delay over six years?
Ms Hosking : My understanding is that there are a range of different approaches that have been taken in the different jurisdictions and that the key reasons for the length of time in finalising construction would be a combination of the consultation with the relevant communities—
Senator SMITH: If we look at the eight where there is a delay, can you identify which jurisdictions they fall into? I am particularly interested to know whether the eight are in one jurisdiction or if they are spread evenly?
Ms Hosking : Five of the centres that have not yet been constructed are in the Northern Territory. Two of the other ones are in WA and one is in New South Wales.
Senator SMITH: What is the reason for the delay? Can you tell us what you know but also take it on notice.
Ms Hosking : I can provide more details, but essentially it is a combination of a complex consultation process for the communities about the nature of the centres.
Senator SMITH: Do some communities think that a childcare service or a family service is not important?
Ms Hosking : I do not think that is the case.
Senator SMITH: These negotiations on the rollout of a childcare centre and a family services centre in the Northern Territory have been taking six years.
Ms Hosking : There is a complex combination of reasons. Some issues surrounded land tenure in the Northern Territory that have been quite complex and have taken some time to resolve. There have been interim services provided in communities in the meantime, but we have been concerned particularly in the Northern Territory about the delays and have been in regular contact with the Northern Territory government trying to help them to get the centres resolved within the life of the partnership.
Senator SMITH: On notice, Ms Hosking, could you provide some explanation for the delay around those eight sites? Could you also detail for me what community consultations have taken place across those areas?
Senator McLUCAS: I want to go to the broader framework around the Closing the Gap commitment. Minister, I understand the government is committed to the Closing the Gap framework.
Senator Scullion: You are correct in that understanding, Senator.
Senator McLUCAS: Is the government committed to all the Close the Gap targets, including the new early childhood target?
Senator Scullion: Indeed, we are.
Senator McLUCAS: Is the government committed to maintaining the funding under each of those targets?
Senator Scullion: As I said, we are committed to those targets. The reason for my hesitation is that I do not wish to mislead you. The funding under Closing the Gap covers a considerable number of programs, and I would not want to mislead you. Generally, we support the targets and I am not aware at this stage of any particular changes in the funding, but I will check on that. I will only correct the record if it needs to be corrected. My understanding at the moment is that we will not be reducing or changing funding in that regard.
Senator McLUCAS: When you do check that, can you also check the amount of money that will be allocated by your government to achieving those targets in the years ahead?
Ms Carroll : We can take that on notice, Senator.
Senator McLUCAS: Will the Prime Minister continue to report annually on progress toward Closing the Gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians in the parliament?
Ms Carroll : We are working at the moment on advice to the Prime Minister around any reporting etcetera that the Prime Minister might want to do into the future. None of that is established and set yet.
Senator McLUCAS: How many reports to the parliament have we had on Closing the Gap?
Ms Edwards : Five, and the reports are given on the anniversary of the giving of the apology.
Senator McLUCAS: So, you are providing advice to the Prime Minister on whether they will continue.
Ms Carroll : On any process going forward.
Senator McLUCAS: Has the Prime Minister requested that brief?
Ms Carroll : No, it is just a normal part of incoming government to be looking at all the key issues or items that have been occurring and whether they should continue in the same or different form at the same or different time.
Senator McLUCAS: We will revisit this area in February.
Senator PERIS: I wanted to congratulate you on your appointment as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Senator Scullion: Thank you.
Senator PERIS: My questions are around the alcohol management plans. How many are there? Are they ready to be signed off by the minister?
Senator Scullion: I will probably be corrected, but I understand that there are 22 that are in some sort of a format, and some are ready to be signed off or ready for me to consider. I have not considered them at the moment, but I am about to consider some for signing off or otherwise.
Ms Carroll : Can we just clarify? We are not trying to be difficult, but there are different kinds of alcohol management plans. If we are moving into specifically talking about Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, then we might just make sure we have got the right officers at the table to answer any of those specific questions. So it is about the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory particularly?
Senator PERIS: Yes.
Senator Scullion: When will that be on the program?
Ms Carroll : We can do that now.
Ms Edwards : Our understanding is that there are 23 currently being developed through the team in the Northern Territory under the Stronger Futures national partnership agreement. There are also other discussions going on in various communities, and none of those have been formally put to the minister as yet for endorsement, but they are at various stages of development and many are well advanced.
Senator PERIS: Are you able to tell me where they are?
Ms Edwards : I can take that on notice.
Senator PERIS: Will the minster sign off on the alcohol management plans that meet the minimum standards?
Ms Edwards : Legislative framework provides for the minister to approve them, and, yes, they must meet the minimum standards that are in place—that is a legislative arrangement.
Senator PERIS: Have there been any changes to the alcohol management plans since 7 September.
Ms Edwards : Since September?
Senator PERIS: Yes. Since the change of government.
Ms Edwards : I am not aware of any overarching, across-the-board changes, but they are in continual development with communities, so there would have been ongoing processes in various places and changing and revising since, and also before, September.
Senator PERIS: Will funding be committed to these plans? If so, how much?
Ms Edwards : Funding is committed to the Tackling Alcohol Abuse Implementation Plan under the Stronger Futures national partnership agreement, and those amounts remain in place. I can provide you with those details, but it is the same as has been provided previously.
Senator PERIS: Will assessors be required to enter all licensed premises in Alice Springs, as per the agreement, and how will this be monitored and enforced?
Ms Edwards : Just to go back one step: there is a process in the Stronger Futures act that allows the Commonwealth to request the Northern Territory to make assessments of specific premises. There is no current request for assessment at this stage.
Senator PERIS: Will the government take action in response to any policy changes by state or territory governments attempting to roll back alcohol restrictions? If so, what action, and if not, why not?
Ms Edwards : I can tell you that the department closely monitors actions across Australia, but the issue of policy of government action is a matter for the government.
Senator PERIS: Will any full-strength alcohol be allowed back into any of these remote communities?
Ms Edwards : Again, to go back a step, there are alcohol restrictions in place across various areas in the Northern Territory under the Stronger Futures act, and there has been no recent change or any anticipated change to those that I am aware of. There is a process to change restrictions, but again I am not aware of any current process to consider such a change.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask about pre-school attendance here?
Ms Carroll : Under Stronger Futures?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes. We are measuring enrolments in pre-school—are we measuring attendance?
Ms Hosking : I think this is probably not so much a Stronger Futures question. It is in relation to the Closing the Gap target. The main mechanism that we work with in states and territories to collect information on enrolment and attendance is actually through the National Partnership on Early Childhood Education, which is managed by the education department.
We could just let you know in general terms. As part of the extension of that national partnership there is a process of looking at better measurement of attendance, which is now being collected through the ABS National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection, so that we can have a much better picture of that. That is part of the mainstream national partnership.
Senator SIEWERT: At this stage, basically, we are not uniformly collecting the attendance data?
Ms Hosking : Probably the education people could give you more information. The new ABS National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection is taking a uniform approach to collecting attendance data. They will be able to provide you with some more information on that. The question is more how that then sits in with targets and so forth within the national partnership.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
CHAIR: Thank you. That concludes the time for this section.
Senator Scullion: Chair, I wonder if I could provide some information to Senator McLucas regarding some of her earlier questions. The charter letters are not discoverable because they are cabinet in confidence. In terms of the general responsibilities, as Minister for Indigenous Affairs I have lead on all matters. Clearly the Prime Minister has indicated that he is keeping a very close interest in this area as a major priority. Mr Tudge is his parliamentary secretary and will be directing his work program in regard to his priorities. A suite of changes were provided to the committee about three days ago—I am not sure whether you received them—and I asked that you be provided with a summary of effective policies and programs. All the Indigenous programs that have transferred to Prime Minister and Cabinet have already been received by the secretariat. If you do not have them I am happy to provide them again.
CHAIR: Thank you, Minister.
Proceedings suspended from 10:01 to 10:14
CHAIR: I will reopen the proceedings of this committee. Minister, did you wish to make a further statement?
Senator Scullion: I thought we should start a convention that as soon as material comes to hand we will provide it to the committee. This is such an opportunity. I indicated that I would take on notice the Closing the Gap targets just for clarification. So, in clarification, we are committed to the existing targets and we are committed to examining those in development, which are: disability, justice and early childhood. I think there was another question on notice that Mr Eccles can respond to.
Mr Eccles : Senator Smith was asking about the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition. Apparently a motion to establish the committee was agreed to in the House yesterday and the intention of the government is to establish the committee as soon as possible.
Ms Carroll : Chair, we have one other matter. I will ask Mr Shevlin to clarify.
Mr Shevlin : Senator McLucas asked a question about the new advisory committee, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, which is co-chaired by Professor Pat Dudgeon and Dr Tom Calma. That has transferred to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
CHAIR: We now move on to health issues. I welcome Samantha Palmer, the First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division, Department of Health, and officers to join the officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for this session on health issues. Do you wish to make an opening statement?
Ms Palmer : No, thank you.
Senator McLUCAS: Just going back to the separation of responsibilities, you would be aware, Ms Palmer, that we talked about this in Health estimates on Wednesday. For the record, can you explain to the committee what elements of Health have transferred to Prime Minister and Cabinet? What elements are remaining with the Department of Health?
Mr Butt : We might ask Prime Minister and Cabinet to begin the answer to that question and then we will tell you what remains with Health.
Ms Hosking : I can outline first the health policies and programs that have transferred to PM&C. These include strategic policy functions for Indigenous health, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework; the life expectancy modelling project and health expenditure project; the social and emotional wellbeing program including the Bringing Them Home and expanding Link-Up services for the Stolen Generation. As Mr Shevlin clarified, that includes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group; it includes the renewal of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing framework; from the Stronger Futures National Partnership with the Northern Territory, it includes the Mobile Outreach Service Plus program; the substance misuse service delivery grants for Indigenous drug and alcohol treatment services; the alcohol and other drug workers funded through the Stronger Futures program; the petrol sniffing prevention program; the National Sorry Day Committee; and the National Stolen Generations Alliance.
Ms Palmer : The activity remaining with the Health Department includes Indigenous primary health care services; child and maternal health programs for Indigenous Australians; further Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chronic disease flexible fund programs; Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory health apart from those MOS Plus that have moved to PM&C; Indigenous early childhood development, antenatal and reproductive health program; improving ear health services for Indigenous children; improving trachoma for Indigenous Australians; the accommodation related to renal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Northern Territory; the Torres Strait health protection strategy for Saibai Island clinic; renal dialysis services in Central Australia; Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory oral health services; Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory hearing health services; and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan.
Senator McLUCAS: So the health plan stays with Health.
Ms Palmer : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Where within government then would be the responsibility for implementing the Closing the Gap initiatives in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health?
Ms Palmer : That sits under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chronic disease fund, so that sits with Health.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, your responsibility is health policy—
Senator Scullion: That is correct.
Senator McLUCAS: and Minister Nash will have responsibility for health service delivery—am I right? I am not trying to be smart, I just really want to understand this.
Ms Hosking : The dividing line to some extent has been that the Department of Health has continued to take responsibility for primary healthcare services, including where they are Indigenous specific, and also programs that are particularly targeted at specific diseases and so forth. The programs that have transferred into PM&C have been largely more in relation to the broader social determinants of health around socio and emotional wellbeing, petrol sniffing et cetera, but also that strategic policy function so we can link up the work that is happening in PM&C with the work in Department of Health, and we will continue to work very closely to make sure that that works in a very coordinated and concrete way. The advantage of this is that it then allows us to draw on the other social determinants of health beyond the specific health programs.
Senator McLUCAS: You almost pre-empted next question. You said that you worked closely together. Are you then going to any formal structures that ensure that that work will be very close? If you split the policy and the delivery, if you do not really keep close, frankly, you do not get the best outcomes.
Ms Carroll : Certainly, Senator, there is a range of mechanisms in place. The first mechanism is actually a secretaries' committee on Indigenous affairs, which is chaired by the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Watt. It includes the secretary of health. Underneath that secretaries' committee, the deputy secretaries are meeting around specific topics. They meet regularly with the Department of Health at both a first assistant secretary and deputy secretary level, but also with, for example in my case, the Department of Education. Mr Eccles meets regularly with Attorney-General's, so there is very close connection right through, and I know that Ms Hosking and Ms Palmer regularly talk to each other and there is very close connection. As I understand the risk that you are identifying, the key will be for us to maintain that very close connection over time and we certainly will be ensuring that we have got the right structures in place to do that.
Senator McLUCAS: As to funding arrangements, if policy is being developed in PM&C and service delivery is happening in Health, who is going to pay?
Senator Scullion: Perhaps I can assist, Senator. I am also responsible for the health performance network and for the health expenditure analysis. The performance network keeps us in touch with the outcomes, as you identify are a very important area, and of course the health expenditure analysis gives us oversight into ensuring that the programs are being delivered efficiently.
Senator McLUCAS: My question still stands.
Ms Carroll : I think the other key component is that obviously the Department of Health, more broadly, will be doing all the policy work around primary healthcare services and all of those because of the strong link to mainstream services. So really, Prime Minister and Cabinet has that strategic policy which is about linking up all the different component parts, but there is a key part of policy that is being done by the Department of Health.
Ms Palmer : Senator, for the list of the programs I read out we have all the funds associated with those programs in the Department of Health.
Senator McLUCAS: My concern is that, if PM&C decide we need a new program and we have a committee and we decide that, who is going to pay for that new program? Sorry, that is probably a bit rhetorical—and I think I have put my issue on the record.
Senator SIEWERT: We did not explore yet what we are doing and where we are up to with the health agreement—the question I asked previously—the national partnership and who signed up.
Ms Palmer : Certainly, Senator. The national partnership agreement was offered in very early August. The Queensland government signed up to it but they did not comply with the requirement to agree funding prior to signing, so their signing has meant that that agreement has not come into effect because they did not undertake the process—
Senator SIEWERT: Basically, it is an in principle agreement—is that right?
Ms Palmer : It cannot come into effect because the precondition for it was not achieved in that they had to actually agree the funding.
Senator SIEWERT: Oh, all right.
Ms Palmer : The objective of the National Partnership Agreement was for commitments from the states as to how much they would spend on Indigenous health over time. That commitment and agreement did not occur before the signing, so the signing by Queensland has not come into effect. No other states have formally responded at this time.
Senator SIEWERT: And what was the time line for them? Did you say, 'Could you please get back to us by August?'—I think you said? Was that the date?
Ms Palmer : It was offered in early August and I do not believe that a time frame was put on a request for reply. No—no time frame was put on the request for reply.
Senator SIEWERT: Why not?
Ms Palmer : The agreement is offered by the Prime Minister.
Senator SIEWERT: So, can I ask PM&C why? Surely, we need to agree this; we need to get this signed and have the next phase ready to be implemented as soon as possible?
Ms Carroll : Senator, I am not trying to be difficult but that is in the other part of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and we would need to take that on notice, because we do not have those officers here today. They were here on Monday. I am not trying to be difficult, but we—
Senator SIEWERT: I understand. I did not think you were! But I suppose it does not stop me from being frustrated. Could you take that on notice? Where are the negotiations with the states up to? Do we have any that are close to commitment?
Ms Palmer : My understanding is that state officials have advised they were waiting for advice from the new government as to their intention with the NPA, and that it is under government consideration.
Senator SIEWERT: So therefore, can I go back to the minister and to PM&C and ask if it is the government's intention to proceed with the plan?
Ms Carroll : I will just need to take that on notice. We might be able to get you an answer shortly; but I would not want to say one way or the other because I do not have a briefing on it here.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I know you are not trying to be difficult but it seems to me a fairly simple question—is this government committed to the next phase of the national Indigenous health plan? It is—
Ms Carroll : As far as I understand it is, but I will just confirm that for you.
Senator Scullion: We will try to get an answer to you today.
Senator SIEWERT: So you do not know?
Senator Scullion: No. I am not prepared to put something on the record that might not be right. We have already had to correct the record a couple of times because of my attempts to answer questions where I was not exactly sure and that is the case now. But we will take it on notice and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Senator SIEWERT: Minister, you know I do not usually try and play games on these issues, but this one is pretty important—and you really should know—is this government committed to the national Indigenous health plan?
Senator Scullion: Well, the short answer is 'yes'. If there is any difference to that I will let you know on notice.
Ms Palmer : Senator, if you do not mind me clarifying: I think it is worth pointing out that the health plan is very different to the NPA on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health. They are two very different things.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I understand that.
Ms Palmer : I am sorry, but your question keeps talking about the 'health plan'. To be clear: you are asking about the NPA?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Ms Palmer : Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I do mix up the two and I do phase in and out with my language, and I apologise. But you will get back to me on that?
Senator Scullion: If my answer needs some clarification or addition.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. In that case, to go back to the issues around the states, that is why you have not been following the states up?
Ms Palmer : That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT: Could we come back to that later this afternoon to clarify, if possible? I know it is not on the agenda, but that would be good.
I want to go on to the specific areas now—to renal health. Can we have an update please on spending of the $13 million that is now $10 million?
Ms Palmer : At the last estimates I advised that we were waiting on Finance advice as to the return of that $10 million and its availability this financial year, and that has been confirmed, and that funding is available for consideration by this government—available to spend in full.
Senator SIEWERT: The $10 million, not the $13 million?
Ms Palmer : Yes, the $10 million, because the $3 million from the very first year was returned to consolidated revenue. However, we did at the last estimates talk about a number of activities, and some of those activities were completed between last June and now and funded from separate Indigenous health funds. So they have not been taken out of the $10 million.
Senator SIEWERT: So the whole of the $10 million is there.
Ms Palmer : Correct.
Senator SIEWERT: Not that I want to knock off the other things, but those things are still funded, and the other $10 million is still there?
Ms Palmer : Correct.
Senator SIEWERT: What are the plans for that $10 million?
Ms Palmer : That $10 million is under consideration of government. I do not have any plans I can talk about today.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay, so just to be sure I have my interpretation right: that means that you are essentially going back to the drawing board about how to spend that $10 million?
Ms Palmer : We have provided advice to government and we will wait for their advice on what to do next. But I do have some other updates that I can give you that have followed since last June. You will recall that last June the previous minister had written to the WA health minister and also the South Australian health minister.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Ms Palmer : So, I can report that on 8 August Minister Hames from WA responded to the previous minister's request for support in the form of operational costs for proposed dialysis services in Kiwirrkurra, Warmun and Warburton.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Ms Palmer : Minister Hames responded that those areas were covered under the tristate agreement that was signed between the three governments—WA, South Australia and the Northern Territory—in 2010 and that they fell within the Northern Territory geographical catchment area. So, in effect, those three projects were not supported by WA because of that tristate agreement. The South Australian minister wrote back on 27 June, and you will recall that the previous minister wrote with respect to seeking a commitment for working with the department to facilitate a workshop around discussing renal dialysis infrastructure and service delivery for patients in the APY lands. Minister Snelling responded that he did not support a workshop being held with stakeholders. He also indicated that there were significant infrastructure issues associated with permanent renal dialysis services being placed around the APY lands. In particular, he highlighted electricity supply and water supply issues and also significant workforce issues associated with that remote part of Australia. But he did suggest that a meeting be held between officials.
We held that meeting in July to discuss dialysis infrastructure and service delivery, and South Australia Health at that time expressed a preference to continue with the mobile bus service rather than setting up permanent dialysis activities. Following that, the South Australian officials put in a request for $9 million for a range of infrastructure supports for that mobile bus service—things like sealing of the car parks where the bus would be parked, covers for the bus, accommodation costs for running the bus et cetera. But that request did not proceed, because it was not in relation to expanding dialysis services; it was around supporting the bus.
Senator SIEWERT: So, we are back to the drawing board with both WA and SA. Is that correct?
Ms Palmer : Correct. We were not successful in getting any further.
Senator SIEWERT: That tristate agreement in 2010: am I correct in my understanding that that relates back to that dispute about a WA patient not being able to go into Central Australia?
Ms Palmer : It is about cross-patient flows and making sure that funding flows with those patients. But also I think it related to the Central Australian renal study, which recommended a hub-and-spoke model for patients to actually be seen in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs and provided a mechanism for NT to get funding back from those states.
Senator SIEWERT: So, the WA government's position—they did pay some at the time, from recollection.
Ms Palmer : I do not have any information about cross-patient flows and expenditures between the states, but I do have some colleagues here from acute care, and there are some HHF projects that relate to renal dialysis, and some of those are WA projects. If you would like them to talk to you about those they have that information here today.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. The bottom line is that we have patients who are not getting support, because states are still playing—shoving them between the states and the Territory and the Commonwealth. That is the bottom line.
Ms Anderson : If I understand Ms Palmer's introduction, you were discussing cross-border flows of patients. These are fairly routinely undertaken. Obviously patients are not necessarily aware that they are crossing a border when they seek access to care. They are part of the warp and weft of the funding arrangements for delivery of public hospital services across Australia. They are typically the subject of inter-jurisdictional agreements and are usually relatively unproblematic. They use the pricing schedule that has been established by the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, in the main, unless they choose to establish a different setting for their prices. It is normally a matter of fairly straightforward accounting to firstly count the number of patients who have travelled and what sorts of services they are accessing and then identify a dollar value or cost for those services. And then the remittance happens between jurisdictions. So these patients accessing dialysis would not be in any way distinguishable, except for the fact of that care, from any other patient crossing a border to access care.
Senator SIEWERT: I have two questions. One is: this is about actually providing more in-community dialysis; that is what you were pursuing with the state, wasn't it?
Ms Palmer : We were, because the recommendation for the hub-and-spoke model also flowed through to recognising that there was not enough accommodation for people to come in, and that is why the Commonwealth put the money up. In the absence of the NT accepting that money, as I think we discussed previously, we were looking for other options to use that money effectively.
Senator SIEWERT: Chair, I am wondering if I can ask the departments and the minister whether we are able to get a briefing on this? It is going to take us quite a long time to unpick this so that we can get our heads around what Ms Anderson was saying. This issue has been going around and around for quite a while. I am wondering if we could get a briefing on how all this is working, because I really do want to see how we can make some progress.
Senator Scullion: Perhaps I can assist. In the future the matters being dealt with by the Minister for Health, which this is, will be dealt with and we are trying to facilitate the process, because we know this is the first time around. So I will ask the Minister for Health if he can provide an update in terms of a brief and provide that to you on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be good.
Senator Scullion: So, this particular question will be dealt with in that other place. But on this occasion I will ask the minister to provide you with an update and a brief on those matters. I understand that he is considering them at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated, because I do think there is a level of complexity here that we are not going to get to the bottom of today. And, quite frankly, I am sick of coming here—and this is no reflection on you—and getting little snapshots and not seeing any progress.
Senator MOORE: Regarding the renal stuff, perhaps I could just clarify: we would like a written brief, getting the amalgamated information that we have been receiving over at least five estimates, and then we would like a personal briefing to the committee. So it is a double whammy: it is not just a written brief we are seeking; it is a two-part brief. And that is common practice in this committee—or it was common practice.
Senator Scullion: I can seek that briefing from the minister. And, as I said, we will try between now and the next set of estimates to clarify with the committee. It is unfortunate, with the change in the committees—I met with the previous committee and gave them a brief, and I have tried my best to provide some of those interim issues. Hopefully they will evolve today and we can ensure that there will be some more clarity about where we would be asking these questions in the future.
Senator MOORE: And because the committee is kind of augmented and is now going back through F&PA, perhaps you can come back through the secretariat of F&PA and then through that secretariat other people are interested—it is a core group.
Senator SIEWERT: On petrol sniffing: could we get a briefing about where we are up to in Darwin, with the tank, or an update?
Ms Hosking : We are in the final stage of negotiations at the moment with the relevant providers to finalise contracts in that matter with a view to having the forecast completion date of the facility in the second half of 2014.
Senator MOORE: That is later than we thought originally, is it not?
Ms Hosking : Yes.
Senator MOORE: How much later?
Ms Hosking : I am not sure of the delay since we last reported to you, but it is a delay. The delay largely reflects the complex contract negotiations that we had to go through and the fact that the project is going to be delivered through a number of related contracts with fewer producers, storage providers and construction contractors. We actually have multiple contracts that need to be in place before we can sign our contract with Vopak, the provider of the bulk storage facility. They have to finalise their contract arrangements with Shell. We are now actually in the very final stages of these negotiations and the contract should be finalised very quickly from now.
Ms Carroll : If I could just clarify, we got the funding for that through the process, and it had been agreed and signed off by the minister. So it is the contract negotiations that are being finalised at the moment. But we recognise that it is much later than you were probably last told.
Senator MOORE: We had a very similar response last estimates. I think it was similar except for the last sentence. Who is doing these negotiations?
Ms Hosking : It is PM&C.
Senator MOORE: Who in PM&C?
Ms Hosking : Mr Shevlin.
Senator MOORE: That is hard, Mr Shevlin—you got the pass straightaway! So, Mr Shevlin, you are doing these negotiations?
Mr Shevlin : I am, yes.
Senator MOORE: Perhaps you can tell us why these are so complex. We have been told consistently that it is the complexity of the negotiations. I do not want to take too much of your time, but surely PM&C is well versed in complex negotiations.
Mr Shevlin : It is complex because the parties that we are dealing with are not used to dealing with government departments and certainly this work has transitioned from the Department of Health. It is not our normal business in dealing with fuel producers and fuel distributors and terminal operators, so they have approached the Commonwealth negotiations as they would a normal commercial transaction. So there has been a level of understanding in terms of why particular clauses are in contracts. That has been a protracted process. As Ms Hosking referred to, there are related contracts, and because of the slippage we have had to renegotiate our contract with Shell Australia that was in place, but it had a requirement in our contract with Vopak that the facility had to be available by 31 December this year or else our contract with Shell Australia would terminate. So we have had to work in parallel with Shell to ensure their continuing engagement—
Senator MOORE: And they are okay?
Mr Shevlin : They are all okay. And we have actually worked as closely as we can with all parties. There is strong commitment by all of them to do it. It is just that we are unfamiliar bedfellows, and that has taken a bit of work on all sides.
Senator MOORE: So, the second half of 2014?
Ms Hosking : That is right. And, having said that, I appreciate that there have been delays reported to this committee before, but we are expecting the contract to be signed in the next week or so.
Senator MOORE: Well, that is the most positive hope we have had for a long time—next week or so! So, basically I will be generous, Ms Hosking, and say that before Christmas we should have that signed.
Ms Hosking : I feel very confident saying that the contracts will be signed by then.
Senator MOORE: As soon as that happens, Minister, can we be told about that one? We do not normally get advice about signed contracts when it happens, but perhaps with this one in particular we could get some advice that the ink meets the page. That would be great.
Senator Scullion: Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: I have a specific question about Marla Roadhouse, then I would like to ask some general questions. I understand Marla Roadhouse is no longer selling low-aromatic fuel. Is that correct?
Mr Shevlin : Marla Roadhouse is one of the sites that we have traditionally referred to as a 'refusing' site.
Senator SIEWERT: They were previously selling it, weren't they?
Ms Hosking : Our advice is that they did provide low-aromatic fuel between 2006 and 2010.
Senator SIEWERT: Since then, what have you been trying to do to encourage them to restock it?
Ms Hosking : I understand that there have been attempts to have a series of meetings and contacts occur between the relevant provider and the then department of health, including a letter that was sent to the relevant person in July encouraging them to voluntarily comply with low-aromatic fuel. The latest update I had was that letter that was sent in July.
Mr Shevlin : That is the most recent engagement that we have had with them. In July, Marla indicated they would be prepared to transition to low-aromatic fuel should other sites within the Coober Pedy the area also come on board. Those are discussions that we are having with the local communities. I had a staff member who visited Cooper Pedy earlier this year.
Senator SIEWERT: What sort of time lines and process are you putting in place? Are we starting to use the new legislative powers on that?
Ms Hosking : We are still in the process of providing advice and finalising guidelines for the government's consideration in relation to the use of those provisions.
Senator SIEWERT: When are those guidelines going to be finished?
Ms Hosking : We have draft guidelines, but they need to be considered in the context of the—
Senator SIEWERT: So you have finished them and given them to the minister?
Ms Hosking : We are still in the process of looking at some of the detail of those guidelines before they are finalised. They are close to being finalised. We need to take a few additional things into account.
Senator SIEWERT: What are they?
Ms Hosking : The things that I think are most important in those guidelines are the process of consultation that is required to be consistent with the act, as well as the relationship with state and territory legislation.
Senator SIEWERT: Have each of the states and territories got back to you about the status of their legislation?
Ms Hosking : My understanding is that the last formal letter on that that was provided to the states and territories was under the previous government at the time that the legislation was still being finalised. I am not sure if Mr Shevlin can talk about the responses to those letters.
Mr Shevlin : The previous minister wrote to his state counterparts and there was a mixture of responses to that. Generally it was broad agreement. I think Western Australia indicated they did not intend to proceed with legislation and would rely on the Commonwealth. Since that time we have briefed Minister Scullion on the development of the guidelines and the minister has started some of those consultations.
Senator Scullion: This matter will continue to be a part of my bilateral discussions with the jurisdictions. It is, as you would be aware, Senator, a priority of mine that they have framework legislation very similar to the volatile substances act of the Northern Territory. My view was on the public record during your support and parliament's support for the Commonwealth legislation and I am still of the view that the legislation that can be produced by the various jurisdictions would be far more useful in this regard. Those issues and others, of course, are part of my ongoing bilateral discussions.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the time line for your bilateral discussions, because in the meantime we are getting retailers that are not stocking and are not moving to restock?
Senator Scullion: I can report that in the Northern Territory, as you may be aware, there have been some significant breakthroughs with some of the serial offenders and places like Ti Tree now have Opal fuel. A number of the people have left, as you may be aware, through natural attrition—the recidivist offenders that the previous committee that was considering these matters would be well aware of. In terms of the timing of the responses from the jurisdictions, I obviously cannot provide an answer to that. But this will be a priority matter in terms of my ongoing bilateral discussions with the jurisdictions.
Senator SIEWERT: The problem here is that we are now a significant way down the track and they still have not moved. Unless you set a deadline, they are not going to move. We should be abandoning that process and using the legislation.
Senator Scullion: Where it can be demonstrated that the legislation will be of use to ensure that we get some movement in that area, I can assure you that it will be applied.
Senator SIEWERT: What about this issue around Cooper Pedy?
Senator Scullion: The issue around Cooper Pedy is that we do not wish to act until it is the last circumstance. The use of legislation and punitive action in that regard should be our last course of action. As we have heard from the officers, there are ongoing discussions about Cooper Pedy. We are hopeful that it will not require legislative action. However, if it does I can assure you that that will take place. We will not be waiting for the legislation to somehow appear in South Australia. That is not a timeframe that would be appropriate. But we believe that negotiation in other areas should take place and exhaust themselves first. If they are not successful, we will certainly use the legislation to the capacity that we can.
Senator SIEWERT: The problem that we have here is that this has been going on for a long time.
Senator Scullion: I acknowledge that.
Senator SIEWERT: Unless you set—and I am moving away from the states to the actual issues of the retailers—a deadline they will keep you in discussions perpetually.
Senator Scullion: I appreciate that. As you would be aware, there was a some seven-year timeframe in the Northern Territory. We are just now getting to the point where people understand that we are fair dinkum. Those issues in terms of the rollout in South Australia are far more recent. It is reasonable to ensure that we exhaust the processes. The assurance that I have given you is a genuine assurance. If I can see that we have exhausted all the normal processes of negotiation and they are clearly not going to move on those then we will use whatever capacity the Commonwealth has.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I do not agree with you, but I will pursue this again in February.
Senator MOORE: I have a question on the petrol-sniffing strategy through until 2015-15. The original funding for that was $115.86 million over five years. I am seeking to have a reaffirmation of that funding commitment.
Ms Carroll : Any funding into the future is obviously always a part of broad government consideration, so I would want to say that the government is committed. But clearly there is a commitment to the issues around petrol sniffing et cetera and that will be part of the normal deliberations of government as we go through.
Senator MOORE: And it is currently in the out years funding in the budget.
Ms Carroll : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: That question covers what we needed to ask. How many petrol suppliers in the Territory are—and I forget Mr Shevlin's descriptors—
Mr Shevlin : 'Refusing sites'.
Senator McLUCAS: How many refusing sites do we have?
Ms Hosking : In Australia?
Senator McLUCAS: In the Northern Territory.
Ms Hosking : We have six overall.
Senator SIEWERT: That is six who have refused, and then there is this scale where they give them time to refuse and refuse—to say no, no, no, no—
Senator McLUCAS: And then really refuse.
Senator SIEWERT: And then there is the point when it is really no.
Ms Hosking : My understanding is that three of the six are in the Northern Territory.
Mr Shevlin : That is correct.
Senator McLUCAS: Is there a descriptor for those who you are negotiating with at the moment who have not yet finally refused?
Mr Shevlin : The concern with most of the sites, particularly those in the Northern Territory, is our capacity to expand the rollout. That shows how important the development of the storage facility in Darwin is. The particular concern that we have is that, if we are having to encourage suppliers to transition to low aromatic fuel, should there be a disruption in that supply we will lose the goodwill that we have been seeking to develop. We are taking a cautious approach and ensuring that we have the storage facility and then the capacity to ensure delivery.
Senator SIEWERT: Have any stopped supplying since last estimates?
Mr Shevlin : Not that I am aware of.
Senator SIEWERT: Where is Yalata up to?
Mr Shevlin : We are continuing in negotiations with them. That community, as you are aware, approached the department about six years about a facility. We were looking at providing a standalone facility at the old roadhouse. A contract was offered to the community in that space. For internal reasons, they did not sign that and they have come back to us over this year with an alternative proposal to site that facility within the community. We got back to them and inquired about the efficacy of that, because previously they had been opposed to it because of traffic congestion and safety concerns within the community. In September, the CEO got back to the department to say that that is the preferred approach of the community. We are continuing to work with them on the proposal. Those discussions are ongoing. But they have been delayed very much by the position that had been adopted by the community.
Senator SIEWERT: So you are not adverse to putting it in the community if that is the preferred approach?
Mr Shevlin : And if we can be satisfied that the risks of that are manageable. We do not wish to put the community at risk.
CHAIR: Thanks very much.
Senator McLUCAS: I wanted to ask some questions in the general opening section on the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council. Have nominations closed for the advisory council?
Senator Scullion: Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: How many applications were received?
Ms Carroll : Close to 300 applications.
Senator McLUCAS: How many members have been selected from the application process?
Ms Carroll : The advisory council is still be finalised. We anticipate that it will be announced very shortly. In addition to the expressions of interest that were sought, other information was provided to the government, both in the incoming government brief and through regular briefing, about possible candidates for the advisory council. The final selection of that advisory council is going through the process at the moment.
Senator McLUCAS: So there were approximately 300 applications and then there will potentially be members selected from people who did not apply. Is that what I am hearing?
Ms Carroll : To be precise, there were 230 applications. All I am saying is that the department had also provided advice, as would normally be the case, about the advisory council.
Senator McLUCAS: And potential participants.
Ms Carroll : And potential participants, yes.
Senator McLUCAS: How many members will the council have?
Ms Carroll : That will be a decision for the government.
Senator McLUCAS: Have members been appointed yet?
Ms Carroll : As I understand it, those processes are all still in train.